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Uniqlo Sustainability Campaign Puts Recycled Product in the Spotlight

Uniqlo’s latest sustainability campaign aims to get shoppers to purchase products made from recycled materials while learning more about the impact of ocean waste.

The retailer recently launched the “Join: The Power of Clothing” initiative across its stores and e-commerce site in Japan. Aiming to raise awareness about waterway pollution, parent company Fast Retailing said it would donate up to $1 million from sales of products made with recycled plastic fibers to the Nippon Foundation, a nonprofit, grant-making group.

Revenue from Uniqlo’s BlueCycle jeans, made using up to 99 percent less water than typical denim, along with T-shirts and other basics made with 100 percent recycled polyester, will support the charity. Shoppers who bring used, washed plastic bottles to Uniqlo’s Harajuku and Tokyo stores will be gifted a plush toy or a tote bag developed for the campaign, which ends July 31. Items purchased online will be delivered in a cardboard box branded to promote sustainability.

Uniqlo also launched a special microsite designed to encourage shoppers to deepen their engagement with the initiative. Haruka Ayase, an ambassador for the brand’s LifeWear range of basic apparel, delivered messaging about Uniqlo’s sustainability focus areas, while biological oceanographer Ryota Nakajima and influencer Yoko Koga were interviewed about their advocacy blog, “Less Plastic Life.” The partners provided tips about how to reduce dependency on single-use plastics in all aspects of daily life.

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Dr. Keith Alverson, an environmental researcher who served as director of the International Environmental Technology Center of the United Nations Environment Program, was interviewed by Uniqlo about the role that apparel companies play in mitigating plastic waste. “Since entering the 21st century, plastic pollution began increasing alarmingly—8 million tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year,” he said. In order for the industry to help combat the problem, it must “move away from the very cheap disposable kind of clothing towards quality clothing that people use longer,” he advised. “This means increasing the number of high-quality items built to last for years of use and reuse, and reducing the total demand for materials over time.”

The company encourages shoppers to participate in its Sports GOMI x UNIQLO waste collection program, which takes place near Uniqlo’s stores throughout Japan. Waste from urban areas is often washed out to sea, making the maintenance of city centers as important as coastlines, the group said. The program is bolstered by local community groups, allowing shoppers to take part in a collaborative, gamified effort that makes trash collection feel like sport, the group said.